Insight and analysis on the data center space from industry thought leaders.

Virtualization Acceleration in the Real World

Virtualization sometimes still struggles to deliver on its promise. Companies working to extract more value from virtualization can benefit from combining flash memory with breakthroughs in software caching that support the evolution from caching on physical servers to fully virtual architectures, writes Josh Miner of Fusion-io.

4 Min Read
Data Center Knowledge logo

Josh Miner is Director of Product Marketing at Fusion-io, where he works closely with customers.




Virtualization – creating virtual versions of resources and running them on physical devices – promises to enable IT organizations to become more efficient. When virtualization works, it helps organizations lower IT costs and simplify management by making use of idle resources such as CPU and RAM.

But virtualization sometimes struggles to deliver on its promise, especially in data-rich and transaction-intensive environments. Data I/O bottlenecks cause latency that slows down applications. As a result, VM density is limited and I/O intensive mission- and business-critical applications are often not even considered as candidates for virtualization.

PCI Express flash memory combined with software caching removes the I/O bottleneck, moving read workloads into powerful, underutilized virtualization servers. It also frees storage resources of the I/O read burden, while preserving valuable migration, DRS, and availability features. A wide range of businesses, from professional sports to off-road vehicles to convenience food businesses are now using virtualization to make efficient use of their data resources.

Increasing VM Density While Preserving vMotion

VMware virtualization is at the heart of Sharks Sports and Entertainment (SSE)’s IT environment. Owner of the San Jose Sharks hockey team, and based in Silicon Valley, SSE is always on the lookout for new technologies to optimize its growing business. Happy with the cost savings it had achieved via the consolidation virtualization enabled, SSE decided to evaluate whether caching software would provide any additional benefits.

With caching software to accelerate its virtualization, SSE realized a 10x boost in VM performance. Since performance was not a problem for SSE, IT Director Uy Ut immediately thought about the significantly higher virtual machine (VM) density he could potentially achieve with a tenfold boost in IOPS horsepower. “I can add just about any application to my environment without adding physical systems, which is a tremendous cost savings and takes my virtualized environment to the next level,” he said.

Increasing server VM density is not viable for most organizations unless they can preserve vMotion and other features used to support high availability, disaster recovery, and maintenance windows.  Accordingly, SSE chose caching software that supported dynamic vMotion migrations of virtual machines that automatically rebalanced, cache capacity across host VMs. This freed Ut’s team to focus on strategic objectives while consistently maximizing the use of the cache capacity.

Extending the Life of Existing Hardware

Polaris, the leading off-road vehicle manufacturer, trimmed its IT costs by virtualizing its web servers. In making the move, Polaris needed to ensure it had performance that could scale to support a web-based rich media customer experience, including video, high-resolution photos, order details, and customer info—without requiring a major overhaul of its existing network and NetApp storage infrastructure.  “My options were limited, as I needed to keep the existing storage and network infrastructure of the dealership portal extranet,” said Infrastructure Manager Adam Knutson.

Upgrading storage in virtualized environments typically requires complicated hardware setup to get the necessary performance results. But the addition of caching software was faster, simpler, and less expensive than adding more servers or storage arrays to the infrastructure.  Besides preserving its existing hardware investment, with its virtualization upgrade, Polaris increased VM density to make web pages load five times faster.

Blazing Performance to Boost the Bacon

Adding caching software to its virtualization environment helped Quaker Maid Meats produce SQL Server-based Microsoft Dynamics reports 40 times faster. For Quaker Maid, reducing wait times meant recovering 10-15 employee hours per day. “I estimate we are saving the company around $52,000 yearly through increased employee productivity,” said Jesse Pryor, Systems Engineer. “The better user experience also means happier employees.”

Today, IDC estimates that more than 50% of server workloads are virtualized. Companies working to extract more value from virtualization can benefit from reviewing breakthroughs in software caching that support the evolution from caching on physical servers to fully virtual architectures.  With software to support virtual performance, organizations can maximize the savings and performance possibilities offered by leading virtualization solutions as their business needs evolve.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

Subscribe to the Data Center Knowledge Newsletter
Get analysis and expert insight on the latest in data center business and technology delivered to your inbox daily.

You May Also Like